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Teaching vs. Nursing

ThePrincessBrideThePrincessBride 466 replies41 threads Member
edited April 2010 in Parents Forum
Okay, so not too long ago, I posted a thread about wanting to be a teacher. It has been a couple months, but now I have been thinking about nursing.

The number one priority when choosing a career has always been flexibility. Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. I do NOT want to a work a 40 hr, 5 days a week job with only a two week vacation. I want a job that is very family friendly (I'm a family person). I want a job that I can enjoy a nice vacation to Europe, occassional splurges (i.e. seeing movies, getting a monthly spa treatment). I don't want to have to come to work EVERYDAY with only a weekend or so.

So of course, when searching for careers, I have found that teaching match my goals perfectly. As a teacher, I get time off to spend with the kids and explore other interests...or perhaps another career. I wouldn't be locked down to one job all year round, and I would know my schedule year-round. I think I would love teaching a foreign language or English. However...

The pay isn't that great, nor are the jobs secure. Now I know some of you are going to say "do what makes you happy", but to be honest, I wouldn't be happy having no financial security and only making $30,000/year. Nursing on the other hand....

Has much better pay. The average RN makes over $50,000. Many nurses only work 3 days a week, though they are twelve hour shifts. There is a great demand for nurses, moreso than teachers. As a nurse, I would definitely want to work in Labor and Delivery with babies. None of that ER mess but in Labor and Delivery. I love babies, and I think I could definitely enjoy being around them on a day to day basis. BUT...

Nursing shifts are unpredictable. Oftentimes, you will work holidays, and your schedule will be sporadic, less structured than that of a teacher. Of course you'll get four days off and job and financial security and double pay for that day, but really, who wants to work on Christmas or Thanksgiving? I'd love to be able to work three 12 hours shifts, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday OR Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with an occassional weekend shift thrown in. But anyway...

Sorry for the long rant. I needed to get it out of my system.
edited April 2010
34 replies
Post edited by ThePrincessBride on
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Replies to: Teaching vs. Nursing

  • mantori.suzukimantori.suzuki 3245 replies102 threads Senior Member
    Van Halen had a song called "Hot for Teacher". It rocked and was awesome. I don't remember anyone doing a song called "Hot for Nurse". 'Nuff said.

    Then again, both are professions that command a lot of respect in society. Both allow you to help people. Both provide job security. All other things being equal, you might as well go for the money.

    Also, because of the lovely hours, summers off, and retirement benefits, no one seems to give up teaching for nursing. But starting as a nurse and then becoming a teacher when you're ready to slow down a bit seems pretty feasible to me.
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  • Nova10Nova10 820 replies0 threads Member
    Actually, nursing is not that sound right now. I have heard of many rns being laid off or hospitals having hiring freezes on rns.
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  • mantori.suzukimantori.suzuki 3245 replies102 threads Senior Member
    As with many professions, I think you have to be willing to go where the jobs are. Depending on what you're qualified to teach, that would be true for teaching as well.

    ThePrincessBride, I wonder about your comment that teaching jobs aren't that secure. At least in public schools, teachers are usually unionized, and after an initial trial period, their jobs are quite secure. Perhaps I'm behind the times?
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  • paying3tuitionspaying3tuitions 12571 replies759 threads Senior Member
    My sister-in-law got the best of both worlds by training as an RN and eventually becoming a school nurse. She worked in a hospital for a decade, but when her own children were school-aged, she moved into School Nursing. She liked the hours better because they matched her children's weekday schedules and holiday times. Sometimes in summers she'd work at camps. She also is an amazing and original individual who initiated programs in her schools, including getting a grant to provide bicycle helmets for every student and ran lunch-hour exercise programs for the faculty and staff to stay fit!

    I think you need to do a lot of research by shadowing a professional for some days. I think you underestimate the workload of the modern public school teacher, and might be romanticizing "Labor and Delivery" which will also include babies who are stillbirths and other deeply tragic times.

    Both are good professions where people are underpaid and overworked, IMO. Also the newest talk in public education includes longer school days and year-round school, to improve the knowledge base of American schoolchildren. Charter schools undercut the role of unionized teachers, especially for brand new teachers who gravitate to teach in places where unionized teachers won't go (charters). There's no telling what will be.
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  • AnagramPandaAnagramPanda 723 replies15 threads Member
    ^ I had the same thought as Mantori. Getting in might be difficult, but once you're hired, tenure will make your job as secure as any out there.
    Also, depending on what you're interested in teaching, the salary issue might not be as bad as you think. Judging by what research I've done, high school teachers tend to make closer to $40,000/year than the $30,000 you cited, and if you go into foreign languages, you'll be even more desired, which might translate into better pay.
    As you can probably tell, I'm biased, as I'm interested in becoming a high school English teacher myself.
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  • gleefulgleeful 32 replies1 threads Junior Member
    i'm studying to be an english teacher this fall and i love it for the reasons you described. yeah, the money's not the greatest part of the job but it is truly rewarding (and the pay in my state is about 40 a year with benefits and such)

    mantori, there is a real lack in math/science/language teachers, so it would be smarter to get a job in those fields as opposed to other ones. i know my district cut 1 teacher and 3 aides this year =/
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  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 34785 replies1076 threads Senior Member
    I don't remember anyone doing a song called "Hot for Nurse". 'Nuff said.


    I seem to remember a lot of jokes about hot nurses giving sponge baths on sitcoms.


    A sister in law- several friends and a niece are nurses/nurse practitioners.

    Long hours- long on your feet days- for people who are great at math/science, can deal with complex issues and have great short and long term memory.

    You can work in clinics, hospitals, nurse practitioners can prescribe and often are the highest level in a daily clinic and you are in great demand in areas which don't have many physicians.

    It can be pretty tough in a hospital, there may be a hazing process- where you get the worst shifts and have to suffer through a lot of abuse- from other nurses.

    You are generally not in a teaching position, you are having to distance yourself, in order to provide competent care- and can't get tied up into what happens when they leave the hospital or clinic.

    Procedures are dictated by the physician, you won't have a lot of leeway.
    28 states seek to expand the role of nurse practitioners | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Headline | National News

    However, there are lots of areas of medicine to pursue and with the aging of America, we will need nurses more than ever.
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  • starbrightstarbright 4549 replies111 threads Senior Member
    ^ Really? All the nurses I know- quite a few in two countries- all sucked at math in HS. It seems math/science they took in college was not exactly engineering level.

    They also seem uniformly exhausted. It seems like a demanding job. But I hear that about teachers as well.

    In terms of nursing, it seems one doesn't have much choice in their shifts for quite a lot of years-- could be a challenge with childrearing without hubby or mother close by to help out (as I see my relatives try to juggle this one).

    I think in 'theory' both jobs can be readily romanticized, as the OP has done; the reality of both jobs, from the actual hours and amount of work, the stress from a wide range of sources, the invisible downsides, is tremendous.

    I think the shadowing idea and talking to people who are both in these professions, as well as those who have left them, would be really worthwhile.

    I also think getting a realistic sense of the cost of living and real salaries would be useful. It's hard to imagine how 3 12-hour shifts (a 36 hr week) results in a 40k a year life and how that 40k a year translates into paid vacations and trips to Europe and massages every month. I think it only works if part of the big master plan (assumed or conscious) is to marry well and be supported by a spouse that does want to work hard for a professional lifestyle. If my daughter was working out these plans, I would be strongly encouraging her to work on having a career that would give her the lifestyle that is not dependent upon necessarily marrying a particular person.
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  • sopranomom92sopranomom92 1299 replies40 threads Senior Member
    I don't know where you get salaries at $40k, for teaching or nursing. Around here, the starting pay is $42k for teachers, and goes up each year. The highest is $86k or more. Average teacher pay is $65k. This, of course, doesn't include teaching summer school, or doing tutoring, or leading summer camps, etc. Nurses are similarly paid.

    But don't go into teaching for the "flexibility." I can't think of anything less flexible. At 7:50, you better be in your classroom, because here come the kids. They'll be waiting outside the door if you're late, and your principal will be none too pleased. Don't expect to go to the bathroom before lunch, you won't have time. If you have a dentist appointment, you'll have to lose a sick day, there's no leaving early or showing up late. Bells will ring at exactly the same time each day, two to four times each hour. If it's Tuesday at 9:33, you're teaching Intro to Biology, every day for 184 days. No flexibility.

    Don't even think about traveling off-season, you're working. No flexibility. But if you love to teach, and you love kids/young adults, then go for it, it's a very satisfying profession.

    Looking for a sure bet for jobs? Try speech therapy or speech pathology. Every district has jobs that go begging. The pay is usually higher than the teachers'. Also, you can work in private practice, for a hospital, a rehab, schools, clinics. Requires both bachelors and masters degrees in speech pathology/communication disorders.

    The nurses I know have burned out, it's very difficult these days. If you've got the smarts, go for PA or nurse practitioner instead. Though, the school nurse option is a good one.
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  • toblintoblin 1781 replies81 threads Senior Member
    The OP's moniker and posts strongly points to a desired need for the benefits and protections and lack of accountability that only government employment can offer. So I say "teaching".
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  • martina99martina99 830 replies25 threads Member
    My SIL is a nurse in the Boston area. She had to pay her dues for many years, working the unattractive shifts and wards.

    Now though, she works her 3 12 hour shifts per week, and is on call at a local hospital. I estimate she grosses over 70K a year.

    And she sucks at math, but she is an energetic, hard working person.

    I know some local teachers through some of my daughter's after school activities. They seem kind of stressed, I don't think its as easy a job as it seems from the outside. They do a lot out of classroom work like study plans and grading. The school budgets are frozen, staff freezes and cuts are driving up classroom size, and the school facilities need repairs and upgrades.
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  • patcpatc 129 replies16 threads Junior Member
    Some info. you might want to consider...

    I work for a school district in the Midwest, non-teaching position. For every opening for teaching jobs in the past three years there have been, routinely, 250 applicants or more. 250! In a small, rural district. Layoffs right now are commonplace. Do the math.

    It depends on where you live, but as a parent I would highly discourage my own children from going into teaching. Unless, that is, you are a visionary for education and plan on setting the profession on fire.
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  • sopranomom92sopranomom92 1299 replies40 threads Senior Member
    patc, it's amazing how we've been hearing for so many years (up until a few years ago) that there is an upcoming teacher shortage. It's never materialized. But, for a few subjects, like math and the sciences, and special education, especially severely disturbed, one can usually find a job. But it's never easy.
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  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 34785 replies1076 threads Senior Member
    ^ Really? All the nurses I know- quite a few in two countries- all sucked at math in HS. It seems math/science they took in college was not exactly engineering level.

    Not a statement to breed confidence in our health care system- but it explains a lot.

    However, local nursing programs including those at CC's are fiercely competitive , some awarding spots in program by GPA not length of time on waitlist.

    & why wouldn't someone earning a BSN be strong in math/science?
    i
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  • woodywoody 3795 replies66 threads Senior Member
    As a nurse for over 25 years, I hardly think that nurses are responsible for the state of health care in our country today.
    I have also never heard of any sort of hazing in the nursing profession.
    I also took organic chemistry with the pre-meds at my university and anatomy with the med students. So, yes a typical nursing curriculum can be quite challenging.
    I worked for many, many years at a nationally known medical center. I now work as a school nurse and teach part-time at a university. I now make as much as a school nurse as I did when I left the hospital but the union benefits are worth it in my present position. However, basic hospital pay is much better. You will have much more flexibility as a nurse in terms of time-off. Right now my schedule is dictated by the school year. I also work summers.
    As far as European vacations and spa treatments are concerned, either marry well or don't have a family.
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  • NeonzeusNeonzeus 1142 replies92 threads Senior Member
    For whatever it's worth, I got a teaching degree and could never find a teaching job...ended up in grad school pursuing a profession. Some of my kids' friends got teaching degrees recently. Only one found a teaching job so far. One is teaching in a foreign country for a year to try to build a resume. One is considering an urban job on the other side of the country, just to get a job.

    D is pursuing nursing. OP might want to review the nursing programs at colleges. Many of them require chemistry, organic chem, biochem, biology, anatomy and a math prereq. We discovered that nursing programs are extremely competitive. For 0-4 BSN nursing programs, there may be a few hundred applications for each spot in a class. If a college says its average SATs are 500W and 500M, the nursing program may be 550 + 550 or higher for example...usually much higher. If a college's nursing program is 2+2, it may be even more competitive to get admitted into the higher level nursing classes. You'll be competing for admission with the prenursing students, as well as the biology and chem majors who discovered that they're going to have to get a job someday and won't get into professional schools. You'll also be competing with graduates who are going back to school to find a career that will guarantee employment. To make yourself an attractive candidate, it will help to show some real interest in nursing, such as hospital volunteering. And as a nurse, don't underestimate the yuck factor and the hard work.

    It will help to discover your true interest in a career, instead of just thinking about salaries and life-style. You might flip through those career possibility books at the bookstore, to see if they suggest other ideas that you may not have considered yet. It's also helpful to go through Monster board or the Sunday newspaper for help-wanted ads. You may see something intriguing beside nursing or teaching.
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  • DebrunsDebruns 2689 replies105 threads Senior Member
    I've know teachers that love having the summers/vacations off although the economy had many of them working in the summer, at least a month or so. They all say the benefits and security made it work, and most loved teaching, years later. In my area though, teachers are threatened with layoffs, I don't hear that about nursing.
    My sister was an LPN and then an RN. She was married until the children were 21 and found the flexibility a plus. She worked over the years, days, nights, evenings, 12 hour shifts, 8 hour shifts (although you usually stay longer) and at hospitals and nursing homes. She was at home with her children much more and at one point, did 3 12 hour shifts (and was paid for 40)to be home longer.
    It changed over the last 20 years, much harder work with less staff and she is very tired and frustrated at times. That said she wouldn't have changed very much, the flexibility and pay helped her be with her children more and she knew somewhere, someone would hire her. She was never unemployed.
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  • mrsrefmrsref 539 replies16 threadsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Member
    Interesting thread for me...D1 is on her way to becoming a Chemistry teacher, D2 starts her working towards her BSN in the fall.

    In our discussions on the pros/cons of each profession, one "pro" that came up for each was flexibility in where you live. All over the country, rural/urban/suburban areas, have teachers and nurses. That's not to say there will be a job available in the particular place you want to live, but you will have options. (In contrast to my industrial chemist profession, which pretty much requires me to live close to an urban area since most big chemical companies locate their labs near big cities.)

    To the OP, I agree with the suggestion to investigate each professon more thoroughly. If you decide to be a nurse or a teacher solely for the potential work schedule, you might not like your job.
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  • ThePrincessBrideThePrincessBride 466 replies41 threads Member
    Hi everyone and thanks for your replies!
    I also think getting a realistic sense of the cost of living and real salaries would be useful. It's hard to imagine how 3 12-hour shifts (a 36 hr week) results in a 40k a year life and how that 40k a year translates into paid vacations and trips to Europe and massages every month. I think it only works if part of the big master plan (assumed or conscious) is to marry well and be supported by a spouse that does want to work hard for a professional lifestyle. If my daughter was working out these plans, I would be strongly encouraging her to work on having a career that would give her the lifestyle that is not dependent upon necessarily marrying a particular person.

    I don't know what you are talking about. The average starting salary for an RN is $25/hour. With a master's, the pay goes up to about $30/hour. So let's see 30x36=1080x4=4320x12=$51840-(36x6 two week vacation)=$51624. That is not even including the holidays where nurses are paid double (4 holidays so....30x2x4=240), plus small bonuses and healthcare benefits. Then there is taxes at about 4%. $51,864-2074.56=$49789. Spa treatments are about $80. $80x12=$960. A trip to Europe? Around $3500. So...49789-3500-960= more than $45,000 left for car insurance, food, and rent.

    Plus, the best part about being a nurse is that you can always pick up a shift when you feel like it. Meaning, if you pick up one 12hr shift a month, you could pocket an extra $4320. Sounds like another nice trip to the Bahamas!
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  • mrsrefmrsref 539 replies16 threadsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Member
    Then there is taxes at about 4%.

    Wow, where do/will you live? Medicare taxes alone are about 4%. Then you have to add FICA (Social Security), federal/state/local income taxes. A better estimate is 20% - 30% for taxes.
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